Junior center Nick Ward tied his career high with 25 points and added 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks as No. 10 Michigan State won its home opener by thumping Florida Gulf Coast 106-82 on Sunday.
Joshua Langford contributed 18 points and 10 rebounds, and backcourt partner Cassius Winston had 14 points and eight assists. Matt McQuaid tossed in 12 points with five assists and two steals. Freshman Aaron Henry added nine points and three assists off the bench.
The Spartans hadn’t played since losing their opener in the Champions Classic to top-ranked Kansas on Tuesday. Michigan State recorded 33 assists on 41 made field goals.
Michigan State shot 53.2 percent from the field, while Florida Gulf Coast connected on 45.2 percent of its attempts.
Christian Carlyle and Troy Baxter Jr. had 20 points apiece for the Eagles (1-2).
Eagles swingman Haanif Cheatham was ejected for a flagrant foul with 1:19 remaining in the first half. Cheatham undercut Ward while battling for a rebound.
Michigan State also won the first two meetings between the programs. In Florida Gulf Coast’s last visit to East Lansing, the Spartans barely hung on for a 78-77 victory in 2016. The Spartans had no difficulty pulling away in this one, as they led 59-35 at halftime.
The Spartans took the lead for keeps with 16 unanswered points after trailing 10-6 in the early going. Winston and Langford hit back-to-back threes during the outburst. Henry then contributed a layup and an assist and freshman Foster Loyer finished it off with two free throws.
McQuaid’s corner three off a kickout pass from Ward increased the lead to 16, 31-15.
Henry’s 3-pointer with six minutes left in the half made it 43-25. A Langford jumper pushed the lead past 20.
The Spartans reeled off seven unanswered points following Cheatham’s ejection. Marcus Bingham Jr. capped that spurt with a 3-pointer.
The Eagles had a 9-0 run to pull within 16 early in the second half, but couldn’t prove a serious threat.
—Field Level Media